* Sanofi could cut around 900 jobs in France by 2015
* Compares with earlier union estimate of 2,500 cuts
* Company held talks with industry minister
* Will try to find "concrete solutions" for Toulouse site
(Adds minister, trade union reaction)
By Elena Berton
PARIS, Sept 25 French drugmaker Sanofi SA
scaled back planned layoffs under pressure from the
French government, which has been struggling to contain a
burgeoning unemployment rate.
Sanofi, France's No. 2 company by market value after Total
, said it could shed around 900 jobs in France in the
next three years, fewer than the 2,500 predicted in July by
trade unions, as part of the company's planned reshuffle of its
The French government, which had strongly criticised
Sanofi's cutback plans amid rising unemployment and similar
plans by troubled car maker PSA Peugeot Citroen, said
it had made Sanofi Chief Executive Christopher Viehbacher listen
French Industry Minister Arnaud Montebourg told reporters
Sanofi had "followed the government's recommendations" after a
meeting on Monday evening, where the company initially offered
to shrink its plan to 1,370 layoffs from an initial figure of
Montebourg said he asked Sanofi to further reduce that
"A company that's earning money cannot behave like a company
in trouble," Montebourg told journalists. "A fter a meeting with
the CEO, whom I saw again last night, I explained that this
layoff plan was abusive and that it needed to be reduced, which
has been done in two waves."
Sanofi's plan, first mooted in early July, attracted the
wrath of French politicians, with Montebourg calling the layoffs
"unacceptable" and Pierre Cohen, mayor of the southern town of
Toulouse which faced around 600 layoffs at a research centre,
labeling the company's top management "gangsters".
Sanofi aims to achieve the 900 cuts through early
retirement, voluntary redundancies and redeploying people within
the company, it said in a statement on Tuesday.
The group added it does not plan to move any of its sites or
reduce the number of industrial locations it has in France.
The future of its cancer research centre in Toulouse,
however, remains uncertain.
Sanofi said it had found potential stakeholders to maintain
operations at the site and it would strive to find "concrete
solutions" in coming months.
Trade unions are calling for a strike on Oct. 3, when a
further meeting between Sanofi and staff representatives is due
to take place, and said they are seeking contact with
"The only news is the 900 cuts, which doesn't take into
account staff in Toulouse," Pascal Vially, a representative for
the CFDT trade union, told Reuters. "In total, 1,500 jobs are at
risk, which is at the lower end of our expectations but still
Unions had predicted that Sanofi would seek to axe between
1,200 and 2,500 of its 28,000 jobs in France. The company
employs around 110,000 worldwide.
The company had declined to provide details of its planned
reshuffle ahead of consultations with staff and meetings with
Like other major drugmakers, the company is under pressure
from patent expiries as well as government cuts in healthcare
spending. It has also struggled to bring new drugs to market.
The French plan is part of a wider 2 billion euro ($2.6
billion) cost-cutting drive that Sanofi announced in September
2011 and follows a series of job cuts in the United States and
Shares in Sanofi were trading flat at 0929 GMT, slightly
outperforming the French blue-chip CAC 40 index, which
was down 0.3 percent.
(Additional reporting by Gilles Guillaume, Nicholas Vinocur and
Noelle Mennella in Paris; Editing by James Regan and David